An App I Tried: Duolingo

Oh Duolingo, I wanted so badly to love you. When I first heard that you were in the App Store I was like, “Finally! You’re here.” I’d been looking for you since I realized the iTranslate keyboard would never be enough and I should stop trying to cheat my way through life.

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As I explored your interface, I grew more and more excited. You’re so cute and colorful and it all seemed so fun. I believed you were an app that I could enjoy learning from. So  I scrolled through the language options: Spanish! German! Japanese! I imagined myself learning all of the languages. I couldn’t wait to talk to all of the people.


I started with Spanish since I should probably know that one by now. Your initial placement test really brought me back. I remembered my Spanish teacher from Big City Montessori whose class I tried to storm out of after she made fun of my last name. I remembered my middle school teachers; one of whom had come from Honduras and tried to turn us into verb-conjugating robots. The other was Italian, and I don’t think he knew a word of Spanish. Then I remembered high-school, and the insane Spanish teacher that wouldn’t let my best friend into the classroom on the first day because her name is Cecilia and, “That means she must be a native speaker.” I laughed at the time that same teacher once stopped a lecture to ask me why I was looking at her (I’m serious). I realized why, after 7+ years of Spanish classes, I still don’t really know the language.

You placed me pretty high up, though! I got to skip a bunch of lessons, and that made me feel super talented. I also liked how I could “place out” of entire sections because I only wanted to spend time on what I really needed to learn and honestly, what kind of Californian doesn’t know how to say ‘hello’ or ‘cat’ in Spanish?

But sadly, our honeymoon phase had to come to an end. I was on a 4-day streak when I sat down with my friend who is a native Spanish speaker. We went through some lessons together and she laughed at how dumb you sound sometimes. We noticed how you simply gamified Google Translate. I knew at that point that you had catfished me. You don’t even know Spanish.

Maybe I’m being too harsh. I mean, what did I expect from a free app, right? It’s not like you don’t do what you said you would. I’m just sad that you’re not able to magically transform me into a fluent speaker. One thing I can say is that you helped me remember those verb conjugation lessons I half-slept through in 6th grade. And I do think you’d be great for beginners who don’t know a thing about the language. I just don’t feel confident using the vocabulary you taught me. People on twitter agree, by the way:



So Duolingo, I’m sorry to say that I simply cannot love you. I still want to love you, though, so I won’t delete you. I might even keep doing a few lessons a day. At least until I find an app that will speak to me in real Spanish on a regular basis until I actually know it.



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